Nature Preserves and Working Farmlands

Weantinoge ranks among the largest landowners in Connecticut. The Trust owns 191 properties in Litchfield and Fairfield Counties, covering 4,295 acres and including such gems as the dramatic oak forest of the Wildwoods Preserve in Sharon, the working Smyrski Farm in New Milford, and the stunning upland habitats of the Plishner Preserve in Bridgewater. We protect and restore habitats and agricultural soils across our properties through the use of state-of-the-art ecological principles and practices. In order to perpetuate local agriculture in the face of prohibitively expensive land values, we provide low or no-cost leases to farm families in exchange for their following good farming and stewardship practices on our lands. Weantinoge’s ownerships produce beef, pork, poultry, corn, and hay that are sold locally.

Here is a selection of seven of the properties that we’ve come to own and protect over our 51-year history:

Cobble Brook Vista, Kent
Preserve Acres: 200

Cobble Brook Vista is one of Weantinoge’s signature preserves. It is over 200 acres and is one of the most beloved natural areas in Kent and Litchfield County, a mosaic of grassland, meadow, riparian habitat, pocket prairie, upland forest, and ridgeline. The preserve encompasses most of the undeveloped land in the valley of Cobble Brook, including almost a mile of the brook itself. Renowned for its pure waters and resident beaver, Cobble Brook is the preserve’s central feature and a key element of the site’s food web. Red tails, white-tails, red fox, beaver, and mink all call it home, as does a dramatic songbird community.

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Smyrski Farm, New Milford
Preserve Acres: 220

Smyrski Farm is Weantinoge’s premier agricultural preserve and one of seven that we lease to farmers in Litchfield County. A bequest gift from Sophie and John Smyrski, the farm property encompasses almost 220 acres in historic Merryall and permanently protects over a mile of the West Aspetuck River, top-rated AA for water quality. The preserve also protects over a mile of road frontage on Merryall Road as it approaches the village center.

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Preston Preserve, Warren
Preserve Acres: 70

The Preston Preserve’s sixty acres harbor the headwaters pond of Kent Falls Brook, a stream that reaches its precipitous confluence with the Housatonic River at Kent Falls State Park. The parcel, a gift of James and Faye Preston of Kent, features a dramatic five-acre pond and marsh along Chester Road and fifty-five acres of pristine woodlands and streams. Beaver, amphibians, waterfowl, and bird-of-prey habitats along with stands of large maple, oak, and pine trees are permanently protected here, as is the water quality of Kent Falls Brook in its uppermost reach. It is a quiet place only interrupted by the slap of a beaver tail or the call of a wood duck.

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Bill Blass Preserve, New Preston
Preserve Acres: 36.5

The Bill Blass Preserve is a 40-acre farm and woodlot property on Gunn Hill Road atop New Preston Hill. The tract is adjacent to state-protected lands in a scenic and historic area in the shadow of Mount Bushnell. It sits in a compact basin between Mount Bushnell and Gunn Hill, with long views to the north, east, and southeast. The land is a mosaic of open pasture, forest, stream, pond, and edge habitats, bounded by 3100 feet of stonewalls. Farmer Gary Rebillard sustainably and humanely raises mixed-breed beef cattle and at times hogs and poultry on 21 open acres. Gary has been successfully farming the property for almost a decade.

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Hauser Nature Preserve, Litchfield
Preserve Acres: 110

The Hauser Nature Preserve is one of Weantinoge’s greatest treasures. Located on Fern Avenue in East Litchfield, the property is a 110-acre mosaic of lands donated by Gustave and Rita Hauser and George Weston. The most prominent feature of the property is the 25-acre grassland that is managed for bobolinks and other neotropical migratory songbirds. Litchfield farmer, Rick Plumb, ensures the successful nesting of these birds by only cutting hay after they have departed on their 12,000-mile journey to overwinter in South America. Bobolinks, like many grassland birds, are declining because of land development and early-season hay cutting in North America and habitat loss in South America. We try to foster the species wherever and whenever we can. The Hauser Nature Park also provides a home for birds of prey including American kestrels, red-tailed hawks, and Cooper’s hawks.

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Long Mountain-Mud Pond Preserve, Kent and New Milford
Preserve Acres: 400

Weantinoge’s Long Mountain-Mud Pond Preserve is a network of lands owned by the Trust and conservation easements in private ownership that span the Kent-New Milford town line. Over the past several years, a coalition of concerned neighbors and the Trust have created over 400 acres of preserves in a contiguous block. Mud Pond, a productive waterfowl habitat, is a key feature of this landscape. The forestlands to the east of Mud Pond include the Trust’s McDonnell Preserve as well as the Gaffney Farm Sanctuary easement that preserves as Forever Wild the northern ridgeline of Long Mountain. Weantinoge’s Alice McCallister Memorial Sanctuary, named in honor of our founder, includes a public trail that facilitates the exploration of the western side of Mud Pond.

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Peardon Farm Preserve, Bridgewater
Preserve Acres: 21

The Peardon Farm Preserve is a scenic mixed farm, forest, and stream ecosystem just west of the Bridgewater center. The parcel includes seventeen acres of well-managed fields in four discrete compartments separated by historic stone walls, a fifteen-acre hemlock-hardwood ravine and perennial stream dominating in the north, and a younger deciduous forest in the eastern reach. The stream is fine brook trout habitat in a spectacular setting. Weantinoge has been a management and restoration partner on the farm since 2005 with much of our work targeted at hedgerow restoration and the removal and suppression of non-native invasive species. As with all of our farm properties, we manage for multiple uses that include support for traditional agricultural practices as well as wildlife.

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